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Proposal wouldn’t have stopped accused abuser

Hart district examines new guidelines

Posted: October 2, 2008 9:41 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

 

New volunteer guidelines were presented to the Hart district governing board Wednesday for a first reading.

But even with the revised guidelines in place, volunteer football coach Kevin Thomas, now on trial for allegedly sexually abusing female students, would have made it onto the Canyon High School campus.
After a lengthy discussion of the guidelines with no mention of Thomas by name, William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board Member Dennis King wanted to know the bottom line.

“Which one of these (new guidelines) would have caught him?” King asked.

Since Thomas had no prior record, none of the guidelines would have prevented him from becoming a Hart district volunteer, according to Rochelle Neal, assistant superintendent of human resources and student services for the district.

However, if district employees fingerprinted Thomas when he went through the hiring process, the district would have been notified immediately upon his arrest, she said.

Thomas was working as a volunteer football coach at Canyon last spring when officers arrested him on
suspicion of sexually assaulting a student at the San Fernando Valley school where he worked.

More San Fernando students and four Hart district students have since come forward claiming Thomas also sexually assaulted them.

The abuse allegedly occurred while Thomas was providing private basketball lessons to girls from Canyon and Hart high schools.

The previous board policy regarding volunteers was so vague that Neal and her team basically started over from scratch with the new guidelines, she said.

“Our goal was to ensure the safety of students while, at the same time, encouraging the participation of parents,” Neal said.

In the new guidelines, which are still a work in progress, volunteers are divided into categories with different requirements for the different volunteer levels. Requirements for long-term or seasonal volunteers, the category Thomas would have fallen under, are the most strict, with additional requirements for athletic coaches.

“These volunteers have the opportunity to be in close contact with our students, therefore they must meet the maximum clearance requirements,” Neal said.

The district purchased a fingerprinting machine to cut costs and to ensure all volunteers meet the requirements, Neal said.

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